If we assume we are going to a bowl game which is reasonable as one more win makes us eligible and two more pretty much secures a spot, then we are just a bit past the halfway point of the season. That is a good place to have a ten-day break between games, especially because Pitt has to really work on our defense.
It is also a good time to look at the season’s games that have been played and at who we face in the next five regular season matches. First let’s cast back and look at where we were at this point last season in Narduzzi’s first year as a head coach.
OK – here are our first seven games last year when we stood at 6-1:
What does that tell us? Well, back then it told us that Pat Narduzzi was the best HC in college football – at least according to some of our more optimistic fans. In truth it was a surprisingly nice start to a rookie HC’s career and one that filled our Pitt balloons with hydrogen… it seemed there was no limit as to how high we’d go.
Winning four straight (ACC) conference games was a real accomplishment for Narduzzi and I can’t remember the last time we had done that. Wait….!! That is what the internet is for. Back in 2009 under Wannstedt we won five BE conference games in a row then put the cherry on top with a win against Notre Dame.
That DW win stretch put us at 9-1 and the best W/L record we had since the 1980s. (Take a look at the scoring defense for those six games – 15.6 ppg. That is less than half of the 31.4 we are giving up this season.)
Coming back to 2015 – in the second half we didn’t fare as well as we dropped four of our last six games… and take a look at the points we gave up in that last stretch: 31.3 ppg – sound familiar?
But still we finished with an 8-5 record that made all of us feel good about the hire and about the immediate future of Pitt football.
So, what have we seen from the first part of 2016? Well – the points against our defense held at almost the exact same number at 31.4 ppg and that is disheartening. But over the offseason Narduzzi and 2015’s OC Jim Chaney parted ways and our new OC Matt Canada has revamped the offense to the tune of 38.4 ppg (22nd nationally).
That is built mainly around a rushing offense that is churning out an average of 239.1 ypg (29th) and has scored 19 TDs on the ground… which actually isn’t that much given the yards gained.
However we’ve scored points in other ways also – Peterman has 11 TD passes against only two INTs. Two beautiful kickoff returns by our prospective MVP (IMO) Quadree Henderson; a fumble recovery and score by Galambos and INT Pick-6s by both Whitehead and Maddox for a total of five “other-than” TDs.
Honestly, that is about the most balanced scoring we have seen in some time especially since we hadn’t been getting that number of defensive and special team’s scores in the past, at least not as much as we may this year – in 2015 we had six total non-traditional TDs and in 2014 we had none.
It’s a good bet will get some more of those type of TDs over the next six games. That’s a big change in two years and shows aggressivness and good coaching in that area of play.
Here is who we face for the remainder of the season:
It’s hard to get a handle on just how well we’ll do with this lineup.
Next up is VT in Heinz Field this Thursday evening and those games have tended to go our way in the past. Butthe Hokis have been pretty impressive of late albeitwith somewhat up and down results in the last three games:
How in the world they lost to Syracuse is beyond me. The fact that they book ended that lost game with wins over strong ACC opponents in #17 NC, and then whooped Miami is impressive. Beating NC at their place is tough also so I think VT can probably play straight up with anyone in the ACC. Whether that includes Pitt is something we’ll find out in four days.
Earlier I would have said Miami was a predicted loss but they have faltered so maybe we can go down there and take them. Why not, right? Payback for the whooping they gave us last season.
Clemson will be too strong for us all around. Syracuse has slowly become a better team as the season goes on and they have a hell of a passing attack. Duke is Duke – but remember we have had some close games against them in the past – high scoring ones also.
The fly in Pitt’s ointment this season has been its passing defense and “horrid” isn’t too strong a word for it. At this point in the season we have given up these stats – and that keep in mind that our ‘yards per completion’ number is 10th worse in the NCAA:
Here is what our next five opponents do in their passing games:
I think we sink or swim with this part of our game. If we want to pull upsets here we need to change this part of our defense – even though teams aren’t scoring through the air that much against us they are grabbing huge chunks of yardage to get their team in the red zone and score 15 TDs on the ground.
Look at that again – for a team that only gives up 97 yards per game rushing the opponents have 15 rushing TDs. By the table below you can see our Red Zone defense has sucked (right column for opponents) just as our own Red Zone work has been good – almost exactly the same which is weird.
|RED-ZONE SCORES||Pitt – (29-31) 94%||Opponent – (21-22) 95%|
|RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS||Pitt – (24-31) 77%||Opponent – (17-22) 77%|
On another Note – the “Mr. Do Everything” for Pitt football just got a promotion.
October 19, 2016
Chris LaSala Promoted to Associate A.D. for Football Administration
LaSala has been a vital part of the Pitt football program for nearly two decades.
PITTSBURGH—Chris LaSala, who is in his 20th season as a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s football staff, has been promoted to associate athletic director for football administration.
LaSala has a well-earned reputation as one of the nation’s finest football operations professionals. His responsibilities have expanded in recent years, both within the football program and overall athletic department.
In addition to his invaluable contributions to football, LaSala is an important member of Pitt’s sport administration team and he played a key role in the development of The Strategic Plan for Pitt Athletics unveiled this past June.
LaSala is one of the athletic department’s longest tenured staff members, joining the Panthers in 1997 as director of football operations. He was named an assistant athletic director in 2000, serving in that capacity until his current promotion.
“Chris LaSala is a tremendous resource for our entire program in so many important ways,” Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He is an outstanding person and professional who has the trust and respect of our student-athletes, staff and administration. I know how heavily I rely upon him on a daily basis. Chris is a true Pitt Man and this promotion is highly deserved.”
LaSala has handled a wide variety of responsibilities with the Pitt football program over the years, including team travel accommodations, youth summer camps, coaching clinics and preseason training camp arrangements as well as daily administration. He also serves as the football program’s liaison to numerous campus offices and within the athletic department.
One of LaSala’s most impactful contributions at Pitt is his daily work with student-athletes in preparing them for life after college. His efforts have made the football program one of Pitt’s most active and enthusiastic teams when it comes to community service. In fact, the football team was recently lauded for logging the most community service hours in the Pitt Athletic Department.
LaSala has been an instrumental figure in the dramatic upgrades within Pitt’s practice facility during the past year. Those enhancements include a new team meeting room, locker room, players lounge and staff conference room. He has also been a creative influence in the newly installed graphic displays that showcase the Panthers’ rich football history.
A native of Aliquippa, Pa., LaSala was a member of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame 2014 induction class. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in service to the University of Pittsburgh. LaSala has also been recognized as an Outstanding Graduate of Temple University’s sport and recreation management program.
LaSala graduated from West Virginia in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Temple in 1991.